Written by Staff Writer

Despite minor improvements, only 22 percent of CFOs in JSE-listed companies are women. Those who make it to the top pay quartile of large companies receive almost half the salary of their male counterparts.   

What can companies do to ford the divide? 

Female representation among the JSE executive population in 2022 has improved from 13 percent to 15 percent compared to a year ago, according to PwC’s Executive Directors Report for 2022. Currently, women fill 22 percent of the CFO roles.

There were 208 new appointments to executive positions from January 2020 until 2022. Yet women were appointed in only 25 percent of these instances. 

This is despite the integrated reports of many JSE-listed companies, including minimum percentage targets (most often 35 percent to 50 percent) for female representation in management positions within a specified number of years to bridge the gap. 

Compared to the UK, these statistics don’t look so grim. With only 15 of the British top 100 listed companies having women CFOs. 

Companies that haven’t busted through the glass ceiling are likely doing their bottom line a disservice. The Harvard Business Review points to research showing that more women in leadership leads to greater profitability, social responsibility and better customer experiences. 

The glass ceiling is double glazed 

When women break through the initial glass ceiling into senior management positions, they often receive less reimbursement. South Africa has a higher median gender pay gap (between 23 and 35 percent), compared to the global average of 20.2 percent, according to the PwC study.

This problem is particularly prominent at large listed companies where the median pay gap is 32 percent. Those in the upper quartile receive almost half the salary of their male peers. 

South Africa is not alone. Bloomberg reported last year that the gender pay gap for executives among top S&P 500 companies was at its widest since 2012.  

How can companies smash through all this glass? 

How do companies take a hammer to all the unfair and unprofitable gender bias? Various reports notes steps that management can take which is likely move well intended KPIs from paper to practice.

1.)Make use of succession planning to promote women 

The PwC study includes numerous suggestions for addressing the gender gap, including making the most of succession planning. However, when looking for promising women, there needs to be a paradigm shift in recognising what promising talent looks like.  

The authors write, “To maintain transparency and encourage participation in the process, companies should outline their succession process with their female talent, as high-performing women, particularly those from underrepresented groups, are often the least likely to be selected for succession, as their leadership styles rarely match those currently in leadership positions.”

2.) Understand that flexible work environments better support women

No matter their corporate success, women are often still the primary caregivers in their households. 

A report by the UN-initiated movement HeForShe notes, “73 percent of female respondents versus 42 percent of male respondents took leave or sacrificed career advancement because of family needs. 60 percent of women respondents have taken maternity leave, while only 13 percent of men have taken paternityleave.”

Both the HeForShe report, and an IBM report on the gender gap problem, recommend normalising flexible work arrangements . 

The IMB report notes,  “Providing staff with the ability to arrange their workdays as much as possible is a huge benefit for all employees. But importantly for women, by making this a standard workplace policy, needing a more flexible work schedule is less likely to be seen as a women’s issue. 

“It neutralises the stigma that women tend to work fewer hours than men – a negative stereotype that, unfortunately, nearly a third of survey respondents report their colleagues believe.” 

3.)Ask, is your work culture genuinely inclusive? Does it truly address bias? 

Most companies pay lip service to addressing gender bias and creating an inclusive workplace. However, the HeForShe report lists unconscious bias as the second biggest obstacle listed by its respondents.

The IBM report notes, “Men, who represent the overwhelming majority of senior leaders worldwide, tend to underestimate the magnitude of gender bias in their workplaces. They need to be vocal allies of gender equality in their organisations.”

The IBM report suggests the practices of so-called First Mover organisations. This is the 12 percent of its survey organisations who have a higher percentage of women in leadership positions.

“It starts at the top, with senior leaders willing to include gender diversity as part of their strategic agenda, as 81 percent of First Movers do. It means executives across the organisation regularly and openly challenge gender-biassed behaviours and language, as 86 percent of First Movers do. And many more First Movers are willing to hold senior management accountable for gender equality using clear metrics (78 percent) versus other organisations (56 percent).”


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